PHOENIX -- The owner and founder of a national business based in the valley is one of five people killed in a fiery helicopter crash in Cave Creek Sunday.
Services Group of America confirmed Monday afternoon that Thomas J. Stewart was killed Sunday when his aircraft went down about 3 p.m. in Cave Creek, a rural area north of Phoenix. The medical examiner has yet to confirm the remaining victims' identities, but Arizona state Senator Jonathan Paton says Stewart's wife and one of his six children was also killed.
Brad Parker, a spokesperson for SGA, says the company helicopter was traveling to Scottsdale Air Park from Stewart's ranch in Flagstaff. A total of five people were aboard the aircraft when it departed from Flagstaff -- authorities have determined there were no survivors.
Initial reports indicated there were two adults and one child killed, but since the aircraft seated six, that number had been in doubt.
The Scottsdale-based food service distributing and real estate firm is the state's second-largest privately held company. Formerly of Seattle, the company is the parent company of a number of companies including Food Services of America, Systems Services of America, Amerifresh, Ameristar Meats and Development Services of America, said Parker.
Witnesses say the Eurocopter EC135 broke apart in the air and burst into flames after crashing nose-down in the wash. Debris was scattered around the neighborhood.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation. The NTSB says it could take as long as a year to determine the cause.
Statement by President of SGA, Peter K. Smith
Tom was first and foremost a visionary. He had a clear and concise continuity plan for the enterprise in place and was completely confident in the current leadership team. With our people, our processes and our technology, we will continue our current operations without missing a beat. That’s how Tom planned it and that’s what he wanted. We continue to be a privately-held, family-owned business that offers the highest level of service in our industries. That will never change.